Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment He disappeared! ()Luke 24:31
I left you in the previous Gem with the question what was it that caused them to suddenly recognise Him? Much has been said and discussed over the answer to this question.
The options are:
- It was something He said
- It was something He did
- It was something they saw
- It was something that happened in them
- It was something that God did
I took the time in the last Gem to show you the words have changed in this last last supper from the Last Supper. It is not as though Jesus repeated the standard words of the blessing and thus they recognised Him. So that it took them back to their previous experience. Firstly they were not at the Last Supper and there are different words used between the two. But there could still have been something in the words said that reminded them of other times they had heard Jesus give thanks for the food. It is not as though He only did it twice. It could have been a mannerism or an action Jesus did which sparked their recognition. It could have been that they noticed the nail marks for the first time. We are not told specifically what it was that sparked recognition but that does not stop us considering the options. Maybe it was a look on His face as He offered the bread to the Father.
Some have conjectured that it was something that happened within them themselves which enabled them to see Him for the first time. Up until now their unbelief has blinded their eyes. They had been told numbers of times that He was alive. Jesus told them it would happen but it didn’t sink in. The women told them the body had gone, Mary Magdalene told them she had seen the Lord. Peter and John told them what they had seen related to the grave clothes. The evidence is mounting up but still the fact of the resurrection doesn’t dawn on them. It almost like their doubt is greater than the evidence. Isn’t it like that sometimes for each of us. The truth of something is apparent to us but we just can’t see it, despite numerous pieces of proof to convince us. We can’t grasp that which lies just beyond our ability to believe. If this is the case then their recognition stemmed from something which finally happened within them. In the words of a modern song, sometimes we have to “sing a little louder, louder than our unbelief.”
The other suggestion is that it was something that God did. Notice the contrast between verse 31 and verse 16.
- :16 But God kept them from recognizing Him.
- :31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.
Only the NLT translation made the implicit information explicit. All other translations have the statement in the passive without reference to what or Who it was that caused them not to recognise Him. The same is true with verse 31. Again in most translations the construction is in the passive and their eyes are the part of them that was prevented from seeing. Their eyes are in focus in both verses and in the place of emphasis in the sentence. Their eyes were prevented from recognising Him and then their eyes were opened so that they could recognise Him. This current reaction is a reversal of what happened in verse 16. It is truly like a veil was placed over their eyes and then later it was removed. (see 2 Cor 4:1-4). It is clear that Paul attributes the blinding in 2 Corinthians to satan. I am not suggesting that is the case here. But I wonder if both aspects are at work here. The blinding comes when we can’t or refuse to embrace truth. When that happens we “blind ourselves”. But then clearly the ability to perceive truth is a God given gift. Which in this case enables them to recognise the Lord they ought to have instantly recognised. It is puzzling to say the least.
The fact that these two verbs (16 and 31) are passive suggests to me that God was behind the process of recognition and non-recognition. But there is also a degree to which our own propensity to trust and receive truth opens or closes the door to us as well. I think that both principles are operating here. Some have said this shows that the nature of the resurrected body is considerably different from that of the mortal body. I doubt that is what is going on here because there are other examples of where Christ in His resurrected body is instantly recognised. Something else is happening here and I suspect it is as I have outlined above. But I have to add that this is a thus says Ian and not a thus says the Lord.
Notice the third element of this verse now.
- 1) Their eyes were opened
- 2) They recognised Him
- 3) He disappeared
At that moment He disappeared. Well isn’t that curious? At the very moment they recognise Him He disappears. The juxtaposition of these two events: the recognising and the disappearing heightens the connection between them. It is like the circumstances of this story are designed for this inevitable ending. Why did Jesus join them on the road? Why did He want to stay the night with them? All about this story indicates He stayed with them until they recognised Him. The moment they recognised Him, His job was done. It reminds me of the words of John 16 and 17.
Then His disciples said, “At last You are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that You know everything, and there’s no need to question You. From this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus asked, “You finally believe? . . .John 16:29-31
Now they know that everything I have is a gift from You, for I have passed on to them the message You gave Me. They accepted it and know that I came from You, and they believe You sent Me.John 17:7-8
When this recognition comes, Jesus is released to go. He disappeared. What does that mean? Was this a supernatural vanishing? One moment He was there and the next moment He was invisible.
This sense is conveyed in many of the translations. If stems from the Greek word used [aphantos]. Did Jesus suddenly become a phantom? Remember He suddenly appeared among them on the road and now He suddenly disappears, His work having been completed. Was it like when He came into the room after the resurrection and walked as it were through the walls, through a closed door. Was this some property of His resurrected body which enables Him to do this? Or was it a more a normal event? The word [aphantos] can mean “invisible” or it can simply mean “no longer visible” – to have disappeared from sight.
Rather than the emphasis being on whether this was a natural or supernatural event, I suspect the emphasis is found in the timing of all three events. The eyes being opened, the recognition and His departure. The very reason He accompanied them on the road was to accomplish this recognition. Without it the story would be sadly lacking a point. Now the light has dawned. In the next Gem we will put the pieces together and then prepare for the final thrust to end the Gospel of Luke. It all hangs together as you will see.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Where there is television, just the brain cells perish.Anon
It’s better to follow your dreams than it is your fears, because your fears don’t move on.Anon
Instead of carrying the world on your shoulders, talk to the One who holds the universe on His.Max Lucado
To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.Muhammad Ali